I recently gave a webinar to the Chamber of Commerce of a village I grew up in – Cranleigh in Surrey, who have got some pioneering schemes such as Slow Shopping to help people with dementia shop with increased care and support and Smart Cranleigh which is trying to make stores more accommodating to the needs of the local community. The aim was to explain what is happening in the world of ecommerce and help local retailers with context and suggestions on the role they can play in forthcoming years as the landscape of retail continues to evolve. I thought it might be useful to share these insights.


Since the impact of COVID-19 developed, the share of people who undertake over 50% of their total purchases online has grown by between 25-80%. Some retail pundits claim that the virus has accelerated online growth by five years. This change cannot be ignored and it looks like it’s here to stay, with many large companies continuing to work from home for the foreseeable future.


The growth of ecommerce (especially Amazon) have been widely reported and we’ve experienced them in our own homes as we all took to ordering online. It does look like this trend is set to continue – 6 in 10 consumers intend to continue buying as much online once the pandemic has passed as they do now. However, as restrictions are eased, and shops begin to reopen, it’s important to consider the long term impact this will have to local retail itself. 


Changing demographics

According to ONS, 47% of the UK workforce are now working from home. Google even announced that they won’t require their workforce to return (at least any time soon). Whether to commute or for leisure, the population as a whole are less inclined to travel and will be choosing to shop locally more often – both out of choice and out of convenience. The pandemic has driven an increased sense of community and there is more of an understanding of mutual reliance within communities. In the 12 weeks to 19th April, independent and symbol stores grew their market share by 40% as consumers chose to shop locally and independently.


The opportunity

Small local businesses are best placed to embrace the upward trends in both local producers and the inclination to shop online by extending their offering online to provide their customers with the best of both worlds. Combining an online space to easily purchase with an in store experience which encompasses both the brand and local culture allows local retailers to create a great brand connection and provide a convenient and knowledge driven service.


Let’s take a look at the benefits of each channel:

By opening up your offering to an online channel, you can provide your customers with the product and brand they’re accustomed to in a ‘safer’ environment. You can also give yourself the opportunity to reach new customers who would never previously have come across your store. If it’s done well, an online presence can give you a prime opportunity to showcase your brand. Although customers will not have the same in-store experience, this provides an alternative touchpoint while stores offer a less appealing environment.


For those who are comfortable with shopping in-store, offer an experience that makes the trip worthwhile. Think outside the box and make sure your store or space offers something above and beyond the transactional focus of your online store. What would make you head into town for something that you could have delivered to your house the next day?


Consumers are more inclined than ever to shop with independent retailers over larger chains, whether online or in store. By encompassing both channels into your business, they can each provide different ways to interact with your customers and give them the opportunity to shop with you in the way they please. Online isn’t to be seen as taking over from bricks and mortar, but rather providing the opportunity of a complimentary service to your store and is often fulfilling a different need:



Recent lifestyle changes and new habits will have a huge impact on local stores, but there’s plenty of opportunities to take advantage of. Change what bricks and mortar means to your business:

  • Play to your strengths – service, product knowledge and locality
  • Community focus – community building focus is key, with more locals now than ever before
  • See online as an opportunity – have a digital strategy (social, chat, click & collect, marketplaces etc.)
  • Make shopping an experience – make shopping fun and enjoyable and give customers a reason to shop in store
  • Expect disruption and change – stay agile; you can move far quicker than nationwide stores


Not sure what to do next? Need help integrating a new online channel into your business? Get in touch with us today at sales@richinsight.co.uk and we’d be happy to have a no obligations chat.

Richard is a multi-channel lifestyle fashion brand founder, with almost a decades worth of experience in the industry. Richard has co-ordinated all functions of brand and retail management; secured two significant rounds of investment and sold to leading global retailers such as Zalando, ASOS and John Lewis.